Four Fantastic Recipes for an Unfairly Maligned Cut of Meat

Fajitas de LaredoCredit: AMAPO

Known throughout the world by a variety of names such as bavette in France, fajitas in Mexico and, oddly enough, as London Broil in the United States, the flank steak is one of the most flavorful and universally loved cuts of meat. Most people just don’t know that they are eating it.

While almost universally disdained as “tough,” properly sliced, flank steak, if prepared with some thought and patience, will deliver a fantastic and affordable meal across a wide variety of regional cuisines.

A Short Primer on the Fundamentals of Flank Steak

The Flank Cut(120198)Credit: JoeSmackLong considered a substandard cut, flank steak has long been a favorite of chefs everywhere who enjoy a flavorful piece of meat that can stand up to the tangiest marinades, the heartiest rubs and the most extreme cooking methods.

Flank steak can be seared, broiled, braised, roasted and has even been cooked sous vide in outer space. Cooking of this wonderful steak can be done quickly or slowly, as a whole or in pieces as well as with spices or just the way God intended.

Regardless of the cooking method, one overriding consideration must always be kept in mind; the slicing. It is critical, before or after preparation, that a flank steak be sliced against the grain. Otherwise, in the most literal sense, you and your guests are in for a serious night of chewing the fat.

With these few facts in mind, a reasonably competent chef can create and serve any of the following four recipes. The first two use an outdoor grill while the last two can be prepared indoors. None of these recipes is particularly exacting and the chef should feel free to modify them as he sees fit.

American - London Broil

London BroilCredit: Jeremy KeithThe next time you have a barbecue, try going upscale. Instead of hamburgers and hotdogs, treat your guests to this excellent and easily prepared meal. In preparation, in a bowl mix some ketchup, soy sauce, mashed garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. If necessary, use a little olive oil to loosen the mixture. Next, score the meat on both sides in a diamond pattern and apply the mixture. Let the combination marinate overnight.

The next day, when you’re ready to eat, preheat the grill on high. Then, sear the steaks for four minutes on each side. The result is delicious as is or on a Kaiser roll with a little horseradish. Serve with potato salad and don’t forget to cut across the grain.

Mexican - Beef Fajitas

Beef Fajitas PlusCredit: Eric T. GuntherThis is essentially the same recipe as London Broil with a different blend of spices but what a difference these spice make. Be sure to use the freshest ingredients for the best result.

On the night before, lime juice, green onions, garlic, cilantro, a little vegetable oil, red pepper, coriander, and anise are all combined to create the marinade. The meat is soaked in a closed container in the refrigerator. The next morning, drain off any excess fluids and cook as described above.

For the slightly different experience, the dish known as arrachera, a regional favorite in the north of Mexico, is a wonderful alternative. The marinade for this dish is onions, garlic cloves, adobo seasoning, cumin, pico de gallo and your favorite Mexican beer. 

In this case, you will again combine the ingredients, marinate overnight and sear the meat to your taste. The meat will, of course, be excellent but the accompanying condiments are what will make it truly special. The standard accompaniments are flour and corn tortillas, sour cream, refried beans, guacamole, fried onions and, of course, some jalapenos.

Chinese - Stir Fry Beef with Broccoli

Beef with BroccoliCredit: BrokenSphereWith this recipe, we move the cooking indoors. The dish may seem complicated but it is incredibly easy to make. A wok is not absolutely necessary but it does make the entire process much easier to accomplish. The real secret, however, is in the cooking of the main ingredients. It is essential to cook the beef and the broccoli separately.

Preparation starts by slicing the beef across the grain and then marinating it in a simple blend of soy sauce and sugar for one hour. When ready, heat one cup of oil in the wok and rapidly quick-fry the beef to the desired level of doneness. It should take less than two minutes. Then, place the cooked meat aside.

Next, dispose of the used oil except for two tablespoons. Just pour it out quickly as the remainder will suffice for the rest of the cooking. Add a clove of garlic and fry for two minutes. Then, add one cup of water and the broccoli. Steam the vegetables for five minutes. When the broccoli is tender, dispose of the water and add the beef back into the mixture. Next, add some more soy sauce, oyster sauce and rice wine.

The final step is to create the sauce. Place the wok over medium heat and when hot the liquid is just boiling, move the solid ingredients to create a small round area in the bottom of the wok. Add cornstarch to this liquid, allow it to thicken and you will soon have a delicious sauce. If you like your Asian stir fry with a little more kick, add some red Italian pepper flakes or any authentic Asian hot sauce.

French - Bavette a L'Echalotte avec Pommes Frites

Steak Y Pommes FritesCredit: FotoosVanRobinSteak with onions and potatoes may be quintessentially American, but the French have been serving and loving this dish for centuries. In fact, it is still a favorite in the cafés and bistros of Paris. This dish may be difficult to pronounce but it is simple to prepare and elegant to serve.

Heat your pan and sear the top side of the meat. Then add butter, salt, pepper and flip the meat. One to two minutes per side will result in a beautiful, rare piece of meat. Remove the steak from the pan and reserve, add the shallots and one half cup of red wine and cook the resulting mixture until the shallots are tender. Plate and add some pommes frites and you’re done. By the way, for the uninitiated, pommes frites are just French fries.

Flank Steak - The Final Word

In a world of dilettantes and petty connoisseurs, each fighting to be heard, its nice to find some meals that live and die on their own merits. Each of the above dishes is affordable, delicious and within the capabilities of almost any cook. Please try them and enjoy the magnificent taste and texture of one of the best cuts of meat available, the flank steak.